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08. 03. 2004

Virtual Reality Pain Relief

Showing victims of severe burns a 3D world full of happy snowmen and penguins sounds a little cruel to me, but in a study which had healthy participants viewing either SnowWorld or a black cross while their feet were pulsed with hot lamps to simulate burn pain, the SnowWorld people were shown to have a 50-97% reduction of stress in the pain centers of their brains. Of course seeing an ominous black cross on a screen through a VR helmet while having your feet burned is not the same as lying in a hospital bed, but the researchers are hopeful that they're onto a drug-free method of pain control.
Incidentally, the SnowWorld screenshots look remarkably similar to an old RealNetworks screensaver called Snowglobes:

Next time I have a migraine, I'll turn it on and put my face real close to the screen, which I hope is something like virtual reality.
Read more from the Washington Post and the Human Interface Technology Lab at Univ. of Wash.
Download a free copy of Real Snowglobes 3D (warning: this is an old screensaver that may not work well with newer systems or graphics cards.)

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